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Daily Life

Winning Over Anger and Arrogance to Create a Humanistic Society

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Buddhism offers deep insights into the nature of our lives and society, as well as how we can transform and improve both. The Lotus Sutra, for instance, describes people of this age as being “arrogant and puffed up with self-importance, fawning and devious, insincere in mind” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 70–71). We can witness the truth of these words today. Yet, amid such a reality, Shakyamuni Buddha teaches that Buddhahood exists in the lives of all people. 

Ikeda Sensei addresses this in a discussion about the world of asuras.The Sanskrit word asuras describes contentious demons in Indian mythology who ceaselessly fight with gods. While the world of asuras is commonly referred to as the world of anger, as reflected in the text below, the word “anger” doesn’t convey the full extent of the nature of this world. The world of asuras is characterized by belligerence haughtiness and arrogance.  

The following guidance is excerpted from Ikeda Sensei’s discussion about the world of asuras, referred to here as anger, in The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4.

The world of anger [asuras] is fundamentally an arrogant state of life. 

Anger, in essence, indicates one’s attachment to the illusory assumption that he or she is better than others.

Those in the world of anger think of themselves as the most wonderful people. The energy of the world of anger is directed toward sustaining and enhancing this image. To ensure that others think of them in similarly glowing terms, they can never reveal their true feelings but act in a fawning, obsequious manner. 

Since their hearts are crooked, they can see neither themselves nor others correctly. Looking at things through the distorted lens of arrogance, they think they are larger than life. As a result, they neither desire to learn from others nor are they capable of honest self-reflection, both of which are the means to grow as human beings. 

“Expedient Means,” the second chapter of the Lotus Sutra, says that the people of an impure age are “arrogant and puffed up with self-importance, fawning and devious, insincere in mind” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 70–71). In other words, while having a strong sense of self-importance and inflated pride, their minds are crooked. They are dishonest and insincere. This well describes the state of affairs in society. 

The hearts of those in this state are always filled with fear—fear that their true nature will be exposed. In “Letter from Sado,” Nichiren Daishonin says: “An arrogant person will always be overcome with fear when meeting a strong enemy, as was the haughty asura who shrank in size and hid himself in a lotus blossom in Heat-Free Lake when reproached by Shakra” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 302).

On the other hand, those with the heart of a lion king are totally fearless. That’s because they are concerned not with protecting themselves but with protecting the Law and the people. 

It is when we learn to channel the energy that had formerly been directed toward winning over others into winning over ourselves that we enter the world of humanity. (See The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4, pp. 120–26) 

A ‘Society of Envy’ Will Decline

A country dominated by envy is sure to decline. That’s because people in such a society, rather than respecting those who have achieved some measure of success or attainment, desire only to drag them down. 

Such arrogance benefits no one under any circumstances. Even if we pursue this course with all our might, no good will come of it. Injuring others won’t improve one’s own lot in the least.

The doctrine of the Ten Worlds[1] concerns itself primarily with the pursuit of happiness. No true happiness can be found in the desire to be better than others, which characterizes anger. People in this state constantly chafe at those who are better than they are, while fearful that their true nature will be exposed. To cover up their cowardice, they try to drag others down. The truth is, however, the more they do so, the more miserable they themselves become.People are envious because they are inwardly aware that in some regard the other person is superior. There is a saying that envy is a [perverse] form of praise; to envy someone is to inwardly recognize the person’s superiority. 

The more they realize the superior qualities of others, the more they envy and resent them; and, consequently, the more they become aware of the dreariness and pointlessness of their own existence. The angst that they feel at this awareness compels them to turn on others with added fury. It’s a vicious cycle.

In truth, to the extent that we can genuinely respect what is lofty and admirable in others, we can develop good qualities in ourselves. (See WLS-4, 127–29)

The Path of Self-Mastery 

[The world of humanity] is the first step toward attaining a state of self-mastery, the culmination of which is to be found in the worlds of bodhisattva and Buddhahood. 

When we follow this path, our lives become stable; we are not tossed about this way and that, the way someone with an arrogant mind is. 

Haughty people in anger cannot recognize anyone as better. They cannot bow their heads to anyone. Ultimately, they become the slaves of their own arrogance and captives of evil. Those in humanity, by contrast, humbly and sincerely respect those of higher attainment and ability and, consequently, accrue inner wealth. 

Buddhism clarifies the path of fulfillment for both oneself and others; it reveals the correct path in life for human beings. Because we are advancing along the correct path, we lead stable lives, realizing progressive improvement and growth. (See WLS-4, 136–37)

Changing Our Fundamental State of Life

Even if someone who has the world of anger as his or her fundamental tendency momentarily produces the world of bodhisattva, they will quickly revert to the world of anger. It is doing our human revolution, transforming our state of life at the deepest level, that enables us to change this basic tendency, to change our fundamental state of mind.

Your basic tendency in a sense determines your life. To illustrate, those who tend to act from the world of hunger are as though on board a ship called hunger. While navigating the course of hunger, they will sometimes experience joy and sometimes suffering. Though there are many changes and fluctuations, the boat unerringly continues to advance along that track. Consequently, these people’s viewpoint is always colored in the hues of the world of hunger; after they die, their lives meld with the world of hunger existing in the universe.

Making the world of Buddhahood our basic life tendency is called “attaining Buddhahood.” Of course, even if Buddhahood becomes our basic tendency, we still have the nine worlds; consequently, we still have worries and suffering. But the foundation of our lives becomes one of hope, and we acquire a rhythm of peace of mind and joy.

Kosen-rufu is a struggle to make the world of Buddhahood the basic tendency of society. Fundamentally this comes down to forging ties of friendship with increasing numbers of people. 

At any rate, when we base ourselves on Nichiren Buddhism, absolutely no effort is wasted. When we make the world of Buddhahood our basic life tendency, we can advance toward a future of hope while making the most of all our activities in the nine worlds, both past and present. In fact, our efforts in the nine worlds become the nourishment that fortifies the world of Buddhahood. (See WLS-4, 217–19)


  1. Ten Worlds: A classification of ten distinct states of life that forms the foundation for the Buddhist view of life. They are the realms of hell, hungry spirits (hunger), animals (animality), asuras, human beings (humanity), heavenly beings (heaven), voice-hearers (learning), cause-awakened ones (realization), bodhisattvas and Buddhas. ↩︎

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